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Editorial: Bell-ringing as important as donating

11:04 PM, Nov. 30, 2012  |  Comments
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It's a common misperception, but it's a costly one for the Salvation Army of Brown County, especially at this time of year.

Potential volunteers and donors look at the magnificent 1-year-old Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on Green Bay's east side and think the Salvation Army doesn't need money.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The organization still needs to fund its programs, which are run separately from the Kroc Center.

This includes the ongoing Red Kettle campaign with its goal of $1.2 million. Funds from the campaign go to supplying those in need with food, clothing, shelter and household goods.

Right now, the Salvation Army is struggling to reach its Red Kettle goal, said Capt. Ken Shiels, of the Salvation Army of Brown County, at a meeting with the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board.

Shiels said that even though the community has a Kroc Center, it still needs to fund its basic needs program. None of the Red Kettle campaign money goes to the center. Forty percent of the funding for the center comes from the Kroc family endowment and 60 percent comes from the membership.

It's a distinction worth noting. The 95,000-square-foot Kroc Center was a gift. It's designed to serve children and families throughout the area and includes a fitness center, dance studio, library and computer laboratory. The Salvation Army received $24 million to build it and a $22 million endowment to operate it, leaving the community to come up with matching funds of $10 million in local fundraising. Shiels said they are still $3 million short on the match.

The Red Kettle campaign, which runs through Dec. 27, is separate. It helps pay for the items those in need require to live their daily lives. It includes a food pantry, feeding programs, rent and utility assistance, hotel vouchers.

It's a critical program for many people. And the Salvation Army is seeing a significant number of new people, and more families, in need of these services. "People coming to us look different than they did two to three years ago," Shiels said.

Luckily for them they are in a community with residents who are generous of their time and money. Time is a valuable commodity, and volunteers who give of their time have a greater impact than they might realize. Shiels said unstaffed red kettles bring in a "pittance compared to what we could make if we had a person." For example, at a Green Bay department store, an unstaffed kettle at one entrance brought in $7 in a day, while a kettle staffed at the other entrance brought in $400.

So even if you can't afford to give money, your time can be just as valuable.

Given all the organizations that seek donations at this time of year, we understand that there is competition for your money. Still, we ask you to consider giving your time (by ringing a bell) or money to the Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign.

"We certainly couldn't do it without our bell-ringers, our volunteers, ? our staff as well as the greater Green Bay community," said Dawn Foeller, Salvation Army advisory board chair.

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